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### Chaos Theory and Computers

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Date: 2/4/96 at 17:35:0
From: Anonymous
Subject: Chaos Theory

I am not really trying to get the answer to a question, I am merely
trying to make sense of a formula.

I go to Cunningham Middle School in Presque Isle, Maine, and have
recently been studying chaos theory. I have happened upon an equation
that can create a fractal that demonstrates the theory graphically.  Now,
since the computer cannot learn, and chaos theory is based on a lack of
pattern, how is the computer able to compute this?

The equation contains the x and y coordinates (making it 2D), but this is
something I am unable to comprehend - i.  Isn't the variable i an imaginary
number?  How is the computer able to use its pattern-based Operating
System and FPUs to generate the algorithms associated with the variable i?
It seems as if either the fractal (or graph, really) is off base, or the entire
OS is off base.  Any ideas?
```

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Date: 2/5/96 at 9:53:22
From: Doctor Ethan
Subject: Re: Chaos Theory

Hello,

Well, I can try to help you out.  First, let's deal with the imaginary
number issue.

In this case i is not a variable.  i is the notation for the
Square root of -1 so i is defined by

i * i = -1.

So, although the computer probably cannot inherently do complex
arithmetic, it would be easy to design a program that could.

Now on to your other questions.

You are right, the computer doesn't learn anything, and to a degree you
are right that Chaos lacks pattern.

However, if you have a formula that is chaotic (and some pretty simple
ones are) then the computer doesn't need to do anything but follow the
formula.  It is the formula rather than the computer that is chaotic. I
can't say much about the actual formula since I don't know what it
is; however, many chaos patterns are generated by recursion, which means
doing the same process over and over.  Computers are very good at this,
and they allow us to do the same things over and over thousands of
times. This means that we can follow these patterns to see if they
become chaotic.

I hope this has helped a little.  If you want more help, write back and
maybe send us the formula that you have been using.

-Doctor Ethan,  The Math Forum

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Associated Topics:
High School Calculators, Computers
High School Fractals

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